At a glance:
- The last days
- Sings and stages of labour
What’s happening to your baby
This might be your final week of pregnancy – but babies usually go past their due date (only 4% are born on time!), so don’t expect a prompt arrival especially if this is your first. You won’t be allowed to go past 10 to 14 days overdue – you’ll be offered an induction.
What’s happening to you
We’ve covered the different things your body will be going through to prep for labour in the previous weeks, but to summarise, here are the signs you’re going through real labour, not Braxton Hicks:
- Strong, regular contractions that last more than 30 seconds and increase in frequency (when they last 30-60 seconds and are every five minutes, call your midwife/hospital). Established labour is when your cervix is dilated by more than 3cm.
- A ‘show’ (the jelly-esque, pinky-looking mucus plug comes away either fully or gradually). Not all women have this, though.
- Your waters might break (this is a pale straw colour and might have some blood in it. However if it’s smelly, coloured or you’re losing too much blood then phone the hospital immediately). If your waters break before contractions start, then also phone your midwife/hospital ASAP.
- Diarrhoea (especially if accompanied by contractions)
Stages of labour
In a nutshell, these are the three stages of labour:
- Stage One: this is the lengthiest part. You’ll experience the contractions to open up/dilate your cervix. It can take 6-12 hours for a first pregnancy.
- When your cervix is fully dilated (around 10cm), then you’re in Stage Two. During this phase you’ll be helping push the baby (with your contractions) through your vagina.
- Congratulations! By Stage Three, your baby will be safely in your arms. The only thing left for your body to do is for your womb to contract and push the placenta out.
Image courtesy of Your Pregnancy Day-By-Day by Professor Stuart Campbell, published by Carroll & Brown, £9.99